Germans are actually really good at English. It’s one of the first things that struck me when I first got here. English is compulsory in German schools, so most people are able to speak at least a little bit of English. If they’re under 30, they’re bound to know English.
My host sister is taking English at the moment (though, as a previous exchange student, she’s already fluent) and she let me read her textbook:
I was blown away. Her textbook, for a non-native English speaker, is incredibly difficult! They’re reading articles from the news, short essays by famous authors, encyclopedia articles– things American kids read in their normal classes!
Thus, Germans can speak English. British English, actually– it’s more common for schools to teach British vocabulary and pronunciation than American English. (My sister’s textbook, however, covers both.) Therefore, I’ll often see spellings like this:
And sometimes, the English here even surprises me. For instance, bathrooms here are labeled “WC.” For a while I had no idea what this meant, until I asked my host mom:
Old-fashioned for America and Britain, but not for Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands who still use “WC” to refer to toilets. Germans even call toilets the “klo,” from the first syllable of “closet” in “water closet.”
And, naturally, Germans may be good at English, but it’s not their first language. Sometimes the usage gets a little bizarre.
Germany’s got nothing on the Engrish you can find in Asian countries, though. My friend went to Japan last year on a YFU summer program, and he found plenty of Engrish to go around:
It seems as though the English teachers in Asia are not nearly as good as the ones in Germany. Here’s the sign on the door of an elementary English classroom in Japan:
So yes, Germans are good at English! They shy away from speaking it, though– often they’re too embarrassed to try. The moral of the story? I have to keep trying to speak German, of course! I have less than a week left, though. Oh, no…